The original Les Paul Studio was designed to fill a gap in Gibson's line, where the instrument needed to be more affordable in order to get it into the hands of the working guitar player. Following on with a similar mindset, the Epiphone Les Paul Studio aims to capture the original Gibson models' magic at an even better price point.
Gone are any superfluous cosmetic features such as the neck and body binding. The body thickness is reduced, and it's a maple cap with a veneer rather than a AAA flame-Maple top. Ultra Modern weight relief completes the stripping back of this instrument, which you might think rids it of anything that made it like a Les Paul in the first place.
You'll be wrong, though, because the magic of the Epiphone Les Paul Studio lies exactly in its stripped-back nature. This is a pure player's guitar, all tone, no frills. The 'Studio' moniker came because it was originally envisaged that these guitars be indistinguishable from the real deal on record, despite the difference in looks and cost.
Picking the Epiphone Les Paul Studio up out of the lovely semi-hard case it comes in, you can immediately sense the weight relief at work, and yet it still feels like a proper instrument when you sit down with it. We wouldn't call it lightweight, but nor is it harboring any of the back-breaking heft that some Epiphone models carry.
Our version comes in a classic Ebony finish with a lustrous shine, matched with a traditional black pickguard. It's finished faultlessly and thanks to its deep glossiness, you'll definitely want to wipe it down every time you've played to keep it looking its best. Black speed knobs maintain the classy yet understated aesthetic, simultaneously providing the quick volume and tone changes from which they get their name.
To offset the all-black attire, we've got chrome hardware, with Grover Rotomatics tuners and the classic Locktone tune-o-matic bridge and stop bar. It all feels resoundingly solid and comes set up fantastically well out of the box, with only a slight intonation adjustment required to get it exactly where we want it.
Two Epiphone Alnico Classic PRO Humbuckers make up the electronics with the classic Les Paul four-knob layout consisting of high-quality CTS potentiometers. The volume knobs both feature push-pull functionality, giving you additional coil-splitting options for each humbucker.
The neck is a 60s SlimTaper profile, which despite its name, has a fairly hefty feel to it, perfect for those big bends and chunky power chord work. The neck does taper away from the fretboard edges quickly, giving it an almost 'D' style profile. It's certainly thinner than the baseball bat-style necks on a '50s Les Paul but not quite as slinky as what you'd get on a guitar with a Modern C profile.
Despite there being a slight hint of new neck stickiness with the glossy finish, this Les Paul is actually an absolute joy to play. That said, accessing the upper registers of the fretboard feels a little awkward when playing sitting down, but once you get it on a strap and stand up, it'll make you feel like a proper rockstar.
The Indian Laurel fretboard combined with Medium Jumbo frets gives a great platform for all kinds of playing, whether you're arpeggiating open chords or letting loose with some big blues bends. The combination of fretboard material and fret size lets you really dig in with the bends. You can feel the wood pushing back at your fingers, giving you the confidence to let fly once you nail the sweet spot.
The width of the fretboard is super-comfortable, too, making it easy for those with smaller hands to anchor their thumb over the neck - it's no wonder we named it one of the best electric guitars for beginners. Complex chords are also a breeze, with the signature Les Paul 24.75" scale length ensuring the fretboard feels incredibly quick for those three note-per-string legato runs.
Where the Epiphone Les Paul Studio really shines, though, is the sound. The sustain is frankly astonishing, with the Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro Humbuckers taking you from screaming blues to melancholy cleans, right back to sludgy doom tones. Starting with a blackface-type clean tone, we found the pickups to be responsive with plenty of output. The neck pickup, in particular, was a delight on clean settings, delivering that thick tone Les Pauls are renowned for.
Paired with a germanium-based fuzz pedal, we got some gloriously sustaining lead tones that just begged to be played over and over. We added in a Klon-clone for some delicious edge of breakup tones that ring out for days, even without the aid of a compressor. When we plugged it into the gain channel of our Orange Rocker tube amp, the tonality went from simmering to an all-consuming inferno of sound, much to our delight and we're assuming, the dismay of anybody in the vicinity.
The ability to mix and match each pickup's tone and volume knobs has always been a strength of the Les Paul configuration, and the added push-pull functionality gives you an even wider tonal palette to pluck from. Whilst the coil split positions aren't quite as sweet as a true single-coil, they certainly offer that spanky sonic you'd expect, making them a great option when you want to change things up mid-song or even just drop the output for a clean passage.
If a 'proper' Gibson Les Paul is out of your price range and you don't mind giving up cosmetic appointments to get that beloved singlecut sound, then the Epiphone Les Paul Studio will be your perfect match. Combining incredible tone with a no-frills ethos, this instrument is for the gigging guitarist who needs a versatile workhorse.
- PRICE: $499/£399
- BODY: Mahogany with maple map and plain maple veneer
- NECK: Mahogany with 60s SlimTaper profile and 12" radius
- SCALE: 24.75"
- FINGERBOARD: Indian laurel
- FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
- PICKUPS: 2x Epiphone Alnico Classic PRO Humbucker
- CONTROLS: 2x volume with Coil Split, 2x tone with CTS potentiometers
- HARDWARE: LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and LockTone Stop Bar, Grover Rotomatic tuning machines
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- CASE: Epiphone semi-hard case
- FINISH: Ebony (Reviewed), Wine Red, Alpine White, Smokehouse Burst
- CONTACT: Epiphone